Layover at Home

joylani 130pxWe left Japan yesterday around 4pm and arrived, still Monday, in San Francisco around 11am.  Even if we had found a direct flight from Tokyo to Buenos Aires, I don’t think we would have taken it, especially since it is really great that we can have a little bit of time at home to repack.  On the list of things to do: pack fleece jackets, buy new travel towels (after several washings in a row we’ve come to the conclusion that their lifetime is over and that they aren’t dirty, they just smell bad), buy REAL water purification drops, pick up our new Acer Aspireone so that Matt doesn’t have to lug around and protect our larger laptop plus pelican case, see Joylani’s mom (who happens to also have a day layover in SF), aunt, uncle, and cousins along with Matt’s parents and meet his grandparents for dinner.  Also: restock on granola bars (essential for long flights and layovers), transfer all data to new computer, wash clothes, and try to get a good night’s sleep.  Somehow, miraculously, and thanks to the help of our parents, we were able to accomplish everything except for the part about getting a good night’s sleep.  It was good sleep, but there were only about three hours of it.  Poor Matt had a little bit more work to do than he figured for setting up the new laptop, and repacking was slow going for me, especially since I pooped out just before dinner, despite having several more hours of work to do.  On the bright side, it was fun to have a quick visit with our families and helpful to switch out some of our gear.  I must admit, though, that it was a bit of a teaser to be home again only to have leave tomorrow morning.  However, we both don’t feel quite “ready” (whatever that means) to come back just yet.  So a few more months on the road it is.  South America—here we come!

Stress Revisited


matt 120pxLast night, my dad asked me if I was ready to get back on the road again. I told him that I was starting to stress. I explained that its always a bit stressful going to a new place, but especially so when you fly in. Unlike train stations and long-distance bus stations, airports are often dozens of miles outside of their namesake city. So not only do you land in a totally new place, but you must immediately find transportation to take you a relatively great distance to a specified place, often at a significant cost. Think about how you would get from the closest airport to your home if you were a foreign backpacker? So we must know exactly where we’re staying ahead of time and how to get there.  Additionally, flying days are often long days due to check-in, waiting, and connecting, not to mention flight time. Such will be the case when we arrive in Seoul, two days after departing San Francisco. We’re going to be tired and grumpy. In short, I told my dad that my stress would continue until we are in a hotel in Seoul. Later, at dinner, someone asked Joylani if she’s stressed out about leaving. She said, “Yea, and I will be until we find a hotel in Seoul.” We were both beginning to get those familiar feelings and naturally began to anticipate the things we’ve been conditioned to over the past year. And so the resumption of our journey begins. Presently midair somewhere between our connecting cities of Vancouver and Beijing, we are back practicing our old travel discipline: research. Reading our guidebook and studying the web pages I downloaded, in hopes of figuring out where to stay in Seoul and how to get there from the airport. Here we go, again :)

Leaving Again: Some Sentiments

another cake

joylani 130pxPacking this time around was a lot quicker than before.  Not only do I know what to expect, but I’m not dealing with leftover odds and ends from packing up a whole apartment.  Leaving isn’t so sad either.  I know we’ll be back early next year, and I have had such a great time these last six weeks being able to hang out with so many friends and family.  A really great time.  These six weeks have been exactly what I had hoped they would be.  Now I’m ready to hit the road again, but I’m glad to come back to a place like Cheers, where everybody knows my name.

balboa park, hannah's wedding

my old roommate Hannah’s wedding in San Diego


old roomies

gma and me

Grandma :)

old friends

my first friends ever

And the cereal!

I will never take a box of cereal and [soy] milk in the fridge for granted again.

I will never take a box of cereal and [soy] milk in the fridge for granted again.

I will never take a box of cereal and [soy] milk in the fridge for granted again.

I will never take a box of cereal and [soy] milk in the fridge for granted again.

I will never take a box of cereal and [soy] milk in the fridge for granted again.

I will never take a box of cereal and [soy] milk in the fridge for granted again.

Special thanks…

To our parents for taking such good care of us: feeding us cookies and cereal, giving us a place to stay, letting us borrow the car, supplying cigars, listening to us and looking at all those pictures. :)

Six Weeks at Home


matt 120pxIts been six weeks since I last wrote, much less posted anything. Although I enjoy producing our blog, the past six weeks in the US have been a nice break from both travel and our blog. I had wanted to write during our time at home, but didn’t and now regret it. The past weeks have flown by and I didn’t even have time to see all the people I wanted to, much less find time to write. For our small, but faithful following of readers, I’ll try to summarize the past six weeks in words and pictures:

Our flight arrived in San Francisco and we spent a day in Fremont (with my family) before heading up to Arcata (with Joylani’s family). After a few days in Arcata, we rejoined my family for their family vacation at Sea Ranch. Those first two weeks were great, as we did nothing other than hang out with our families.


My sister, Jackie, meeting us at the airport


Our first night in Fremont, with my family


We were happy that Katie and her boyfriend Greg made a surprise visit to Arcata


Joylani and her sisters, Katie and Julie


Enjoying a good stogie with Joylani’s dad, Eric


Hanging out with my Grandparents at Sea Ranch


Sea Ranch coast

Then Joylani flew down to San Diego to be in her friend Hannah’s wedding, while I flew out to Maine to be in my buddy Jordan’s wedding. My week there was great. I got to hang out with my old college roommates, the Sevillians (we lived on a street called Seville). My friend Matt lives all the way out in Hawaii and just had a kid, so it was awesome to see him. Jimmy and his fiancé were gracious enough to let me stay with them in Boston, where we had great time exploring the city.  And of course, I got to be there for the highlight, Jordan’s wedding.


The original Sevillians welcomg our newest member

From our week at opposite corners of the US, Joylani and I reunited in the Bay Area and headed back up to Arcata. We spent a week just hanging out with her family. One day, her mom, Arlene, took us to a nearby fair. This definitely was an experience and completed my circuit of small-town America, following Sea Ranch and then Maine. Our week, like the fair, was fun.


The Humboldt County Fair


goat competition


Joylani’s family and I trying to win carnival games


even saw a guy get shot out of a cannon

Returning to the Bay Area, I got to hang out with a few friends, but not nearly as many as I would’ve liked. My parents had a family party at their house and a friend’s party at a friend’s house, so at least I got to see family and stuff. Then Joylani and I spent our last weekend in Fairfield to celebrate our friends’, Maya and Krishna’s (who we stayed with in Chennai) engagement. It was awesome to see all my old study-abroad friends and celebrate with Maya and Krishna all weekend.


My study-abroad friends: Payal, Alvir, Rushi, and of course, me

As far as culture shock, and anything related to re-entry, goes, I went through a progression of thoughts and emotions, although none to strong. After Beijing, the Bay Area seemed to be so rural: so much open space and so few people about. I couldn’t understand people for the first few days as they spoke too fast. Other than my appreciation for English and comfort, I didn’t really experience any shock for the first couple of weeks as we didn’t do anything really but socialize with our families. My trip to New England got me thinking about the huge differences between the US and Asia though. Nothing too specific, but rather broad comparisons between things like cultures, work ethic, senses of entitlement, politics, economics, etc. Generally speaking, it seems that Asia is looking towards a bright future, while America is concerned with preserving its past glory. Being home for both the Olympics and the US presidential race facilitated a lot of this thought and conversation with others. I did a lot of thinking moving from Asia to the US, but didn’t experience too much “culture shock.” I attribute this mostly to the fact that we’ve crossed dozens of borders in the past year and have gotten used to adjusting to wildly different places. And tomorrow, we’ll have to do it again as we head to Korea.

A couple things we’ve seen on the road that I was surprised to see at home:


awesome sunset in Fremont


crazy rainbow right behind my parents’ house


gas getting pumped out of oil drums


enough said…


this Catholic festival reminded me of Ganapati


old stuff in the middle of a modern city, Boston


huge rice fields in California


sea ranch (2)

joylani 130pxWith the exception of a couple friends, we’ve pretty much spent our first 10 days at home in the bubble of our families, and in relatively rural places.  I expected that there might be some reverse culture shock, but not too much has stood out just yet.  I don’t know if it’s because I haven’t been anywhere “shocking” yet, or if there just isn’t to be any big shock.

There is one thing that struck me right away though: crossing the street.  You know—watching traffic orderly pass by, giving the pedestrians the right of way, not just walking out into the street and crossing one part at a time.  I’ve only noticed a few other “oddities” or “adjustments” as the days go by.  Making plans is one of them.  I haven’t had to do this so much except between Matt and I—and that usually consists of planning something then doing it within the next 24 hrs at most, not days ahead of time.  Also nice is the advent of the stocked refrigerator; food is readily available without having to leave the house.  Speaking of the house, we live in more than one room now.  Speaking of a home, we’re home yet still don’t have one.

Nothing else is too strange, so far.  I miss talking with Matt all the time.  When you’re staying with at least 4 other family members, it’s hard to just have those casual moments throughout the day when Matt and I spontaneously combust into a conversation.  Meals are generally eaten separately (and sporadically) rather than at one sitting, except for dinner.  I’m gaining weight, which is awesome.  The loss happened gradually over the past year, but the return of my cheeks, chest and waist is fast.  Looking in the mirror this morning I saw a different face.  It’s good to be back, but I’m just getting used to it.  I am still waiting to see my friends.  Looking forward to it, but not sure if I will be socially awkward…or maybe I already was before I left. :)

Some things remain the same, and of course Frou Frou is still the best.

“Is this it?  Hello we’re back.  And we’re taking calls.  Now what was the question?”